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Feds to investigate dehydration death of N.C. inmate

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The U.S. Department of Justice has opened a criminal investigation into the death of a North Carolina inmate with mental illness who died of thirst after being held in solitary confinement for 35 days.

A federal grand jury in Raleigh issued two subpoenas Wednesday seeking records from the North Carolina Department of Public Safety concerning inmate Michael Anthony Kerr. The state agency released the subpoenas Thursday following a public records request from The Associated Press.

AP reported last week that an autopsy determined Kerr died of dehydration on March 12 and was receiving no treatment for his schizophrenia.

Kerr was found dead inside a van while being transported from Alexander Correctional Institution in Taylorsville to a mental hospital at Central Prison in Raleigh.

He was sentenced in 2011 to serve 31 years as a habitual felon after being charged with illegally possessing and discharging a firearm.

Records show Kerr was twice cited for flooding his cell in the weeks before his death. State officials have refused to say if guards responded by cutting off the water.

A photo of Alexander Correctional Institution in Taylorsville, North Carolina. North Carolina Department of Public Safety
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